As It Happens

UPDATED: Mother who let kids walk alone calls ruling 'Kafkaesque'

It's a case that led to a major debate over modern parenting styles. The State of Maryland has concluded its investigation and cited two parents for "unsubstantiated" child neglect for allowing their kids to play unsupervised and to walk home alone.
Danielle and Alexander Meitiv with their two children: 10-year-old Rafi, and 6-year-old Dvorah. (Meitiv family Facebook photo)

For months, the State of Maryland has been investigating parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv for child neglect. It all started with a simple walk home last fall, that was permitted by the parents who believe in "free range parenting".

Danielle tells As It Happens host Carol Off that her two kids -- who are six and ten years old -- wanted to play at a park about a kilometre and a half from home. So their dad dropped them off and left them to play unsupervised. On their way home, however, the kids were stopped by police. Then, Maryland child protective services launched an investigation into whether the unsupervised walk was in fact child neglect.

The finding is confusing at best. State officials concluded the couple committed "unsubstantiated" child neglect, and although the investigation is closed, it means a file will be kept on the family for five years, and could lead to more serious consequences if they are cited again.

According to mother Danielle Meitiv, "It's very confusing to us. There was no evidence that there was actually neglect. I don't understand why they didn't just dismiss the case."

The family's case has brought new attention to the idea of "free range parenting," a philosophy that encourages kids to be independent and take on challenges like walking home by themselves. Meitiv says parents shouldn't be scared to let their kids out of sight.

"The crime rate today is far lower than anytime in my lifetime. They cannot point to anything that says my children are going to be abducted by a stranger. We are making our children afraid and parents afraid for no reason."

Despite her run in with state authorities, Danielle Meitiv says she'll continue raising 'free range' kids. In fact, as Tuesday was a snow-day, she let her two kids play by themselves and walk home alone from the same park that caused the initial investigation. 

UPDATE (April 13, 2015): It's happened again. On Sunday, April 12, Danielle Meitiv's children were taken into custody by police after being reported playing by themselves at a park near their home.

According to a Facebook post, Meitiv wrote that she was not immediately told what had happened, and ended up "searching for the kids for hours." 

The children were finally released to their parents by Maryland Child Protective Services. 

The couple is not speaking publicly and has referred all media requests to a law firm. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now